Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Essential(ist) John Dewey


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Deweys essentialist critics frequently blame him for what they assume ails public education. They argue, for example, that because of Deweys influence, the schools denigrate history, reject classical languages and traditional approaches to teaching and learning, relegate textbooks to cold storage, reduce teachers to powerless babysitters, and fail to inculcate time-honored notions of virtue and character. The purpose of this paper is to elucidate some of the most important differences between what Deweys essentialist critics say that he espoused and what Dewey actually wrote about these vital matters. This presentation will focus especially on Deweys beliefs regarding the importance of the study of history and on his determination that an education for democracy should help and motivate students to live moral lives and to contribute to virtuous communities. The session highlights the ways in which some of Deweys critics have misunderstood, misappropriated, and misapplied some of his most central and most clearly stated convictions.

Conference Name

American Association for Teaching and Curriculum

Conference Location

Chicago, IL

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